Arcadia

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The Apple and Its Leaf Symbol Analysis

The Apple and Its Leaf Symbol Icon
Like the tortoise, the apple exists both in the past and the present. In the present, Gus gives Hannah the apple. In the past, Septimus begins to eat it, and Thomasina declares her intention to write a formula that will describe the leaf. In the present once more, Valentine explains to Hannah that an iterated algorithm could describe the leaf’s general form, though not its exact shape. There are certain parameters of order in nature, within which disorder works out the specifics. The apple and leaf become a perfect example of how Thomasina brings together Enlightenment and Romantic thought. She loves math and geometry, but she applies those Enlightenment techniques to a very Romantic subject, namely natural forms. And she and Valentine show that both order (Enlightenment) and chaos (Romanticism) command the world.

The Apple and Its Leaf Quotes in Arcadia

The Arcadia quotes below all refer to the symbol of The Apple and Its Leaf. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Mathematics, Nature, and Fate Theme Icon
). Note: all page and citation info for the quotes below refers to the Farrar, Strauss and Giroux edition of Arcadia published in 1994.
Act 1, Scene 3 Quotes

God’s truth, Septimus, if there is an equation for a curve like a bell, there must be an equation for one like a bluebell, and if a bluebell, why not a rose? Do we believe nature is written in numbers?

Related Characters: Thomasina Coverly (speaker), Septimus Hodge
Related Symbols: The Apple and Its Leaf
Page Number: 41
Explanation and Analysis:

In this important section, we see the novelty of Thomasina's thinking. Thomasina has learned so much about mathematics from Septimus that she begins to think in terms that eclipse the intellectual dogma of her era (and her teacher). Thomasina has learned how to model curves like a bell curve or a circle; but now she wants to discover the curve that can model the shape of a leaf or a rose. In short, Thomasina wants to use mathematics to discover the source of the beauty of the natural world.

Where do we situate Thomasina in the Enlightenment-Romanticism binary? Perhaps Thomasina's example shows us that it's really not a binary at all. Like the Romantics, Thomasina embraces the link between mind and nature; at the same time, she seems to want to use mathematics to break down nature into a series of rigorous patterns, not unlike the Enlightenment thinkers. In general, Thomasina's project goes beyond anything that the Enlightenment or the Romantic era was capable of achieving: her ideas are actually more characteristic of chaos theory, a distinctly postmodern theory of mathematics. Thomasina, one could argue, is the truly "modern" character in the text, someone who belongs in the 20th or 21st century.

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The Apple and Its Leaf Symbol Timeline in Arcadia

The timeline below shows where the symbol The Apple and Its Leaf appears in Arcadia. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Act 1, Scene 2
Sex and Love Theme Icon
...Hannah thinks Chloë is referring to Valentine, but then Gus enters, and offers Hannah an apple—it’s Gus, not Valentine, who may have feelings for Hannah. (full context)
Act 1, Scene 3
Academia and Education Theme Icon
Back in the 19th century, the tortoise, and Gus’s apple, remain on the table. Thomasina attempts to translate Latin. Septimus reads a letter to which... (full context)
Mathematics, Nature, and Fate Theme Icon
Academia and Education Theme Icon
...there must be an equation for one like a bluebell.” She picks up the discarded apple leaf and proclaims her intention to make an equation for its form. (full context)
Act 1, Scene 4
Mathematics, Nature, and Fate Theme Icon
Academia and Education Theme Icon
Hannah asks if Valentine might be able to draw the apple leaf using iteration. Valentine explains that iteration could roughly show you the shape of the... (full context)